Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office announces new work-release program as a pathway to success

The first inmate to come through the program, Phillip Richard, is a success story at Southern Spear Ironworks

CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) – The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office announces a new work-release program with Southern Spear Ironworks to help inmates to a new pathway to success.

Phillip Richard looks like just about every other employee at Southern Spear Ironworks. Handles a welding tool properly. Uses safety gear. He just has one more piece of equipment most don’t have. He wears an ankle monitor because he’s currently on probation. He’s part of a new work-release program the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office has with Southern Spear, and he’s the first on the pathway to success.

“I prayed about getting a welding job whenever I got released, and then that meeting happened out of nowhere, and I got the opportunity and I said I wouldn’t let them down.”

The founder, CEO and president of Southern Spear Ironworks says, “A lot of people right now due to COVID and other issues are looking for career changes and second chances, especially some of the underprivileged kids. You know, they end up in jail. They make bad decisions and it can ruin their life. We want to make sure we give them another opportunity to get back on their feet.”

This program wasn’t Compton’s first to help people get back on their feet or even walk. It actually started at Howard High School. Students there come to Southern Spear to do tasks, get a wage and learn a trade to keep them off the streets. But Compton wanted more, so he made it happen.

Compton: “Crime has been up. People are having a hard time, so we thought that we could give back in a better, bigger, faster way by reaching out to the County. When I was at the dinner with the Sheriff, I just went up and I just started talking to him. I said, ‘Hey! We’re going to create a program!’ And he’s like, ‘OK. Let’s do it.'”

Those who continue to commit crimes are called ‘career criminals.’ The Sheriff’s Office wants to get inmates to learn there are other careers that don’t include crime.

Wendy Harris, the re-entry supervisor for the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, says, “People have to remember that there is a sentence. There is an end date. The best thing that we can do for individuals who have been sentenced, have been judged and sentenced, is to help them to devise a plan to return back into society so that they don’t have to return. We want to reduce recitivism as much as possible.”>

Richard agrees with Harris. “It’s been a blessing for me. I’m just trying to … show others that’s in (jail or prison), set that program in place and the GED program showing that I was living the same way as everybody, but I’m wanting something better. This is how you do it. I’m trying to be an example.”

Categories: Chattanooga, Featured, Hamilton County, Local News